The paradise lost of liberalism : individualist political thought in late Victorian Britain
The thesis argues that the development of the New Liberalism in the late nineteenth century was opposed from the standpoint of a more "traditional" conception of liberalism by a group of political theorists who owed their inspiration to the work of Herbert Spencer. Despite the protestations of these self-styled "Individualists" that they were the true heirs of mid-century liberalism, it is argued that their political theory represented as much a transformation of Benthamite Radicalism as did that of the New Liberals. The Individualists developed raid-century liberalism in a conservative direction, arguing that social change was not to be attained by conscious design and developing an ethical justification for the actual distribution of property and power in late Victorian Britain. The thesis establishes this claim by examining six Individualist arguments derived from Spencer's Synthetic Philosophy: (1) the argument from the biological theory of evolution; (2) the argument from psychological theory; (3) the sociological conception of society as an "organism"; (4) the theory of historical development; (5) the doctrine of utility; and (6) the theory of justice and property rights.